One of my favorite games involves stalking and (eventually) attacking. It is played using my tunnel, with me at one end and my human wiggling her fingers at the other end. But she always ends the game before I even have a chance to attack! She is full of excuses, like she doesn’t have all day, her knees hurt, and a variety of other lame complaints. I know the truth, though — she is merely lazy and uncooperative. She is always like this, with every game, not just the tunnel game — if I don’t hop to it and attack immediately she loses interest. Is there anything I can do to correct her bad behavior?
Dear Patient Pouncer,
This is such a common kitty complaint that I wonder if it isn’t hardwired into the human makeup. I think this laziness has something to do with humans shopping for food at the store instead of hunting it properly. They are so used to just grabbing things in bags that they no longer understand the timing, or even the concept, of capturing prey. This is really unfortunate, because when a human walks away in the middle of a kitty stalking game, it leaves the cat frustrated and more likely to act out or become ill tempered. Honestly, can you blame us?
All is not lost, however. There are ways to add some elements to your play that will keep your human more engaged… and maybe even make the game more fun for you! One thing your human needs to do is ditch the fingers. Hand play is almost always unsatisfactory for kitties and humans. If you do manage to attack the hand successfully, it will probably get scratched up, bleed and make your human speak in her loud voice. Human hands are really too fragile to be playthings, and I am not surprised your human ends the game before you have a chance to catch hers. Instead, she should dangle some fun, enticing thing at the end of the tunnel, like feathers or a mousie on a string. Now, that is what I call proper prey! It’s way more exciting to stalk, plus your human has to use some of her imagination to make the thing move like it is alive. Chances are you will be quicker to attack something that imitates real, live prey. I have taught my human to use Da Bird like that sometimes, when I am not in the mood to actually leap after it. Instead, she makes it crawl into hiding places, and I have to stalk it. A smaller toy, like a mousie on a string, is also fun because your human can make it fly into the tunnel, closer to you, but just out of your reach.
If these things don’t work and your human is still losing interest too soon, have her use the treat method of play. She should take something fun and tasty — I prefer freeze-dried chicken and turkey, but any small treat will do — and toss a couple of pieces into the tunnel where you have to go in and grab them. Talk about instant gratification! In any case, when a stalking session ends unsatisfactorily, i.e., where you don’t actually wind up catching anything — whether it is your human being lazy or too clumsy with the play — you should always get a treat thrown your way at the end. Catching the treat and consuming it helps ease any frustration you may feel. Getting dinner immediately afterwards helps too.
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